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September 11, 2013

Ask the Expert: TCU

To get the inside scoop on TCU, we went to an expert on Horned Frog football -- Stefan Stevenson with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- with questions about TCU and Thursday's game in Lubbock.

Stevenson joined Double T 104.3's The Morning Drive on Wednesday morning to preview both teams' Big 12 opener. You can listen to the entire interview by visiting DoubleT1043.com.

Tell us your view on the game, with TCU being the slight favorite coming in.
SS: "I think it goes without saying that it's a huge game, especially for TCU. Going into this season, TCU -- inside the program -- expected to contend for the Big 12 title. I think most media thought TCU should and would contend for the title, and they can't win the title if they don't win Thursday night at Tech. I think it's too tough a schedule, too many tough road games to win that I just don't see them being in the hunt in late November if they're not going to win Thursday. So it's a huge game. It's coach speak, but it's true: they all count the same. They're all big in the conference. But if TCU really wants to have a chance to win the conference they can't lose in Lubbock."

How would you evaluate TCU's performance in these first two games?
SS: "I think they played well against LSU and I think last week against Southeastern Louisiana they underperformed a little bit. They got beat on a couple of huge plays against the Lions, I think totaled 110 yards. You can't take away those two plays, but if you take away those two plays, they really played a really good game against Southeastern Louisiana defensively. The offense started slow, they went for it on fourth down on their first two drives in Southeastern Louisiana territory and failed. So that kind of slowed the offense down a little bit, but I think they turned it on. (Casey) Pachall got hurt at the end of the first half and (Trevone) Boykin replaced him and, kind of like he did against LSU, he sparked the offense and was able to put 24 unanswered points on the board."

Do you think the sluggish play against Southeastern Louisiana was a result of playing LSU in Week 1 and then having this Texas Tech game on the horizon?
SS: "That's probably a good excuse for them to have. The LSU game was an emotional game in AT&T Stadium, very big crowd, and they really wanted to come out and win that game, obviously. But more importantly, they wanted to play well and they wanted to get through the LSU game without any major injuries. They were playing without Devonte Fields, the All-Conference defensive end from last year, who was serving a two-game suspension. Devonte got in the third quarter against Southeastern Louisiana, and will start against Tech. So that changes things for the TCU defense, and it'll be interesting to see how he plays for a full game."

Based on their performances up to this point in the season, is it better for TCU that Boykin is starting instead of Pachall?
SS: "In the long run, that's probably not true. I was a big believer that Pachall should earn the start (before the season). When he was playing at the level that he was playing at, he's one of the top quarterbacks in the country as a pure passer. He was very accurate, I think would've been better on the ground this year. I think he was going to try to do a little more of that in 2012 before he had to leave the team after four games, so that never really materialized.

"When Boykin got in this year against LSU and then last week against SLU, he showed obvious improvement from last year. His throwing motion is better, he's a little bit more accurate, he has more confidence and poise in the pocket, you can tell that he wasn't as rattled when he had to replace Pachall in 2012 against Iowa State in the Big 12 home opener last year. He was a redshirt freshman and you could just tell he wasn't ready. As the season wore on, he got better, he got more confident, he won some huge games on the road for TCU, at Texas, at Baylor and at West Virginia in overtime. But he also made mistakes that freshmen will make. He threw two interceptions against Tech in that triple-overtime loss for TCU.

"That's what they hope, he stays as mobile and as exciting to watch on the ground, but at the same time, when he needs to just drop back and hit the open receiver down the sideline, that he's capable of doing that this year. That'll be a big key as to whether or not TCU can still contend for the conference title with him at quarterback. If he can do that, I think they still can."

Las Vegas has the point total for this game in the mid-60s. Last year's game was a three overtime shootout. What kind of game do you expect tomorrow?
SS: "It's hard not to expect that. The game last year, and the fact that it's the Big 12. TCU is supposed to have a good defense, they're supposed to have the best defense in the Big 12, but Texas Tech, you don't score 56 points if you don't have something to say offensively like the Red Raiders did last year even though TCU, yardage-wise, had Texas Tech's offense in check through three quarters last year. They still ended up exploding in the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter and moved the ball at will in the overtime to beat the Frogs.

"What interest me about this game is to see how well Baker Mayfield, who's been amazing in his first two games as a true freshman walk-on for Tech, how he's able to perform against TCU's defense, which is going to try and rattle him and try to give him a defense that he has not played against yet. So that'll be fun to watch, to see how he responds to that."

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